NEW ORLEANS – A man who was convicted of murder in 1998 has filed a lawsuit alleging that a prosecutor and investigator coerced a teen to give false testimony.
Michael Wearry was convicted in 2002 in the murder of 16-year-old Eric Walber. Wearry’s attorneys were preparing for a retrial when they were able to find the witness, Jeffrey Ashton, in May 2017.
Jim Craig, representing Wearry with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, said Ashton talked to the criminal defense attorneys and told them what allegedly happened.
“It’s not every day that one accuses a prosecutor, a sitting district attorney, of fabricating witness testimony,” Craig said. “It’s a very serious case and a very disturbing case. I hope it’s unusual. I don’t think anybody wants to think this kind of behavior happens every day.”
Wearry’s lawsuit was filed in federal court in Baton Rouge. District Attorney Scott Perriloux and former Livingston Parish detective Marlon Kearney Foster are named as defendants.
“It’s very disturbing to have a sitting district attorney who we believe has gone to a witness and pressured a witness to give an account of something that didn’t happen,” Craig said.
Craig said the case is challenging, but he feels optimistic about the outcome.
“We expect that Mr. Perriloux will challenge this very vigorously through his attorneys,” Craig said. “I think his reputation is very much at stake. I think the integrity of this and other cases in that district is at stake and we expect this to be a very hard fought case. We are confident that what we have filed is correct and truthful.”
According to the innocentproject.org, the Supreme Court reversed Wearry’s death row conviction with a 6-2 vote in 2016.
The court didn’t find physical evidence linking Wearry to the murder of Walber, who was found dead on the side of the road in rural Louisiana, according to the innocentproject.org.
In 2016, Wearry told the court that he was at a wedding reception when the murder took place.
When Wearry was convicted in 2002, Perrilloux was quoted in The Livingston Parish News, saying “"Some cases cry out for the death penalty. This one screams for the death penalty. It hollers and yells."
According to The Livingston Parish News report in 2002, Ashton testified to seeing Wearry throw “something shiny” in the ditch near Ashton’s home on the night of the murder.
Ashton also testified to seeing Walber’s red Ford Escort driving down the street.
According to The Livingston Parish News, Ashton went out the next morning to find whatever Weary had thrown, which turned out to be a Tommy Hilfiger cologne bottle that Cherie Walber said she had given him for Christmas.
Walber was making his pizza delivery when he was murdered, according to court documents.
Sam Scott, who was incarcerated at the time, contacted authorities and implicated Wearry, according to court documents.
“Scott initially reported that he had been friends with the victim; that he was at work the night of the murder; that the victim had come looking for him but had instead run into Wearry and four others; and that Wearry and the others had later confessed to shooting and driving over the victim before leaving his body on Blahut Road,” the opinion stated.
The facts, however, show the victim had not been shot and his body had been found on Crisp Road.